Maternity leave is time off that an employer provides an employee following the birth of a child. How long a mother has to physically heal from childbirth and bond with her baby is dependent on several factors, such as the state in which she lives, and employment policies set by her employer.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees to take up to 12 work weeks off in a 12-month period. However, unlike some other states, Arizona does not provide employees with unpaid leave beyond FMLA. After new parents exhaust up to 12 weeks of FMLA benefits, there is no other maternity leave program.
The Family and Medical Leave Act
The FMLA is a U.S. labor law established in 1993 that requires covered employers to provide employees with unpaid, job-protected leave for qualified family and health reasons. During this leave, employees must continue to receive group health insurance under the same terms and conditions as if the worker did not take leave.
Under the FMLA, eligible employees are entitled to unpaid, job-protected leave for:
- The birth of a child or to care for a newborn within one year of birth
- To care for the employee’s child, parent, or spouse who has had a serious medical condition
- The placement of a child for foster care or adoption with the employee to allow the employee to care for the recently placed child within a year of placement
- A serious medical condition that causes the employee to be unable to perform his or her job duties
- A qualifying exigency due to the employee’s child, spouse, or parent who is a covered military member on “covered active duty”
Pay During Maternity Leave in Arizona
It can be difficult for new parents to afford to take time off from work without pay. Under the FMLA, new parents are guaranteed time off to care for a newborn after birth but unfortunately, the time is not necessarily paid.
Aside from the FMLA, Arizona does not have any other maternity leave laws. In fact, there are only four states that have additional maternity leave laws, including New Jersey, California, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. These states have publicly funded maternity leave programs in place in which employees are paid a percentage of their regular salary for a set period of time.
In Arizona, whether maternity leave is paid or unpaid comes down to the employer. Some companies do offer a predetermined amount of maternity leave pay for new parents. Consult with your company’s HR department if you are unsure of your benefits.
It is important to note that if an employer does offer paid maternity leave benefits, or other leave benefits, such as sick or vacation time, the employer must apply their policies to all pregnant women or women who have recently given birth. If a new mother is unable to work after giving birth due to a medical condition, she must be allowed to use paid disability leave if such leave is available to other employees.
Your Rights Regarding Maternity Leave
Women in Arizona who temporarily leave work to have a child have certain rights under the FMLA. When an employee returns to work from paid or unpaid maternity leave, their employer must offer them the same job (or a similar job) as when they left. If an employee is fired during or directly after maternity leave instead of having her return accommodated, the employee may have a wrongful termination case.
In Arizona, a wrongful termination case occurs when an employer uses a protected class status, such as a pregnancy or return from FMLA leave, as an excuse to fire an employee. Both state and federal laws prohibit wrongful termination. In some cases, an employee may have the right to seek justice if they are fired shortly after returning from maternity leave.
If you return from maternity leave and were fired soon after, you could have a claim for retaliation or wrongful termination. Employers who use the FMLA for their maternity leave can file a lawsuit in federal court against their employer. Under the FMLA, employees must file a lawsuit against their employer within two years of the violation. If you believe that your employer willfully violated the law by firing you, the time limit to file a lawsuit is three years.
Speak with an Employment Lawyer in Arizona
If you believe that you are the victim of FMLA leave violations relating to maternity leave, wrongful termination, or pregnancy discrimination, you have the right to seek compensation. With help from your Arizona employment legal team, you can ask for remedies from your employer or the court, such as relief for lost wages, legal fees, and pain and suffering.
In Arizona, you have the right to take medical leave to recover from childbirth and bond with your new baby. You also have the right to have a job waiting for you when you return to work. If you are facing a legal issue due to maternity leave in Arizona, call our Employment Law team at (480) 464-1111 to discuss your case today.